This summer's massive fires have strained resources across the West to the point that wildfire managers are being forced to let some fires burn unchecked.

That has renewed a longstanding debate about whether it is better to fight a fire — or just let it burn out.

Drought and heat have combined to make this one of the worst fire seasons in the Lower 48 in years. Nearly 29,000 firefighters are battling some 100 large blazes across the West, but it hasn't been enough. In northern Idaho, private citizens have even jumped on fire lines to help overwhelmed firefighters.

Experts say decades of fire suppression are partly to blame for the massive fires. But experts also note that more enlightened management that recognizes fire as a tool has been hampered by a lack of money for prescribed burns or work to clear brush.